After the trauma and suffering at our first attempt to dump lower league opposition at Caledonian Stadium, I don’t think there was a single person in the ground this afternoon that thought we’d have an easy time of it.
The handful of Annan supporters seemed more up for it than the dreary home support and, after our poor showing against Montrose the week before, who could blame them?
Those few home fans that did make it and were also present at the mid-week friendly against Dundee United might have had cause for some optimism after seeing a better performance, especially in the first half, against the SPL outfit.
The starting line-up for ICT revealed half a dozen changes, some forced through injury and others, well, ‘rested’. Maybe TB was looking for more fight from his troops after all they have had a gruelling pre-season in far away places!! We line up like this:
Allison,Tokely, Bulvitis, Munro, Djebi-Zadi, Cox, Eagle, Stratford, Rooney, Sanchez, Imrie. Keeping the bench warm were Ross, McBain, Esson, Sutherland and Shinnie.
It appeared we started with a familiar 4-4-2, as favoured by TB, but this soon descended into its usual system of no-particular-shape-lets-by-pass-the-mid-field. We started brightly enough and had Annan on the back foot early doors and their 11 man defence seemed to hold strong. When Annan did get the ball out they never seemed to past the half-way mark. However, our defence was, I believe, caught napping and we could have fallen behind on around 15 mins but Allison was alert enough to pluck the ball out of the sky. Although we had most of the possession we lacked that cutting edge in front of goal and we really should be seeing teams like Annan off by half-time.
Our pressure did tell in the end though as the ball came out to Imrie, who was running his socks off all night, and he swung in a cross from the right for Rooney to head past the flapping arms of the Annan ‘keeper. This was in the 21st min and the relief could be heard above the sweetie rustling.
We’d have thought the goal would now see Annan come out more and try to get back in the game which they did, in a way, as their 11 man defence became 10! We still kept pressing to put the game to bed before half time but the shot shy strike force didn’t create many hairy moments for the Annan ‘keeper as most of the efforts on goal when wide or high of target. Imrie was putting himself about and picked up an unnecessary booking for a lunge about five minutes from the break. The challenge was reckless and, as the Annan guy was going nowhere, totally unnecessary.
There was a lengthy stoppage shortly before the break when an Annan defender (Muirhead?) went down injured in the box after an ICT free-kick and he took no further part in the game.
No changes were made after the break by ICT as we attempted to regain some kind of 4-4-2 shape. Again we started the brighter of the two sides and could have extended the lead soon after the kick off when a lob by Imrie almost caught the Annan ‘keeper still in the dressing room. Imrie was not to be out done though because, with about 8 mins gone in the second half, he swung in another cross and Eagle was on the end of it to give him his first ICT goal and the team a 2-0 cushion.
At this stage in the match the ICT support could have been forgiven that we were going to see this one off in 90 mins and not have to put up with extra time and penalties. But is certain in our games these days.
Eagle could have made it 3-0 not long after as chased a loose ball but unfortunately for him and ICT the Annan ‘keeper was quicker out of the traps.
For most of the game Imrie looked like he was on a mission to single handedly destroy Annan. He was running all over the place, sometimes on the left, sometimes on the right. Very often he got into some good positions but his greed had the better of him on most occasions. He earlier booking didn’t seem to curb his enthusiasm which was good to see. He got his goal with about 15 mins to go when he smashed the ball into the roof of the net when it broke to him after a goal mouth scramble.
Only now were the home supporters confident that there wouldn’t be a repeat of the Montrose affair.
Soon after the 3rd goal, Rooney was replaced by youngster Sutherland and a wee while later Imrie (my Man of the Match) was replaced by young Shinnie. The two sets of fresh legs had ten minutes to impress and it was Sutherland who shone through as he set up Sanchez for the fourth goal with about two minutes left.
There were 1095 witnesses to Annan’s destruction.
This was far better display from ICT than the Montrose showing and this potential banana skin was put to bed fairly comfortably. However, the display wasn’t one of crisp, clean, free flowing football, far from it. We still had this tendency to hoof the ball up the park and by-pass the mid-field. We do not seem to know how to hold the ball up and it is treated like a hot potato at times. There are many new faces in the side and it will take time for them all to gel into some kind of ‘system’ but I wonder if we (the supporters) will have the patience to wait for this moment. 4-0 sounds like a drubbing but it could have been a whole lot more.
Very comfortable win for ICT. Started brightly but twittered around in front of goal. Not sure what enabled Rooney to score. He headed weakly downward and we all assumed the keeper would block the ball, but it ended up in the net. Eagle scored with a free header after Imrie laid it on a plate. Imrie thumped home from two yards after a decent move down the left wing. Sanchez scored with a cool finish, prodding the ball past the keeper with the outside of the foot. Annans only attempt was just before half time when the aforementioned player collided with the keeper. He won the ball and knocked it a couple of feet over the bar but the keepers momentum carried him into the player and he was stretchered off, but later announced he was ok to travel home after the game. Annan to be honest were not at the races and we should have punished them more severely, however 4-0 is better than last week.
Rossco was good today, involved in most moves, Lionel got the biggest cheer when he backheeled the ball over his own head after a hasty pass went speeding past him at the touchline. Man of the match for me was Cox, he is as solid as they come and has a real determined look on his face when he goes in for the kill. He certainly won't be shirking any challenges.
Butcher was noisy all game screaming instructions at his players. All in all, easy peasy lemon squeezy.
tm4tj also observed: As noted in the player of the year poll, it has not gone unnoticed that Lee Cox is quickly endearing himself to the ICT fans. I thought some of his forward passing was first class, spraying balls wide to Imrie and Tokely on more than just a few occasions. He is very determined in the tackle, a born ball winner and will make Ian Black seem like a pansy and just a distant memory. My only reserved judgement of him was he might have taken a dig or two from the edge of the box, but elected to try and play someone in. Still, top player for us this season and player of the year award beckons.
Rossco must have run him very close for MoM as well. He looked rejuvenated with his thrusting runs and wing wizardy and showboating going down a treat. He seemed to be enjoying every minute of it as well, grinning from ear to ear as he waltzed past the entire Annan defence (well it seemed like it) and backheeled the ball round the inrushing player, real Roy of the Rovers stuff.........or Alf Tupper if you like your bread buttered that way.
Imrie was good also, but the final ball selection sometimes ruined his creative play. He is getting good at hitting the byeline and cutting back for the midfielders to have a crack, and he took one volley early almost catching the keeper out with that one as it looped a couple of yards wide. Bright start by Imrie but he along with the rest of the team went quiet before half time. Dougie was the inspiration in our first half display against United recently and as we altered the flow of the game with mass substitutions we lost our attacking outlet and the game once he had departed the scene. Couple of good assists and a goal can't be bad though. He was booked for a rash challenge as well which was a bit needless and could have been costly had he lunged in more forcefully in the second half, he did however survive.
Match report written by tm4tj